The King of Fighters XIV

KOF has become a major business, generating huge profits and numerous spin-off tournaments worldwide. However, this led to a lowering of the overall quality, and voices began to rise across the globe demanding the formation of one unique, worldwide KOF competition. One day, a billionaire claiming to be the "first champion" bought out all of the rights for the KOF Tournament. His name: Antonov. The announcement of a new KOF Tournament by the self-proclaimed champion created unprecedented enthusiasm around the world. From there, this excitement reached many of the classic participants of the legendary tournament directly in the form of an official invitation...
:  It's been nearly 5 years since The King of Fighters XIII released on consoles (Nov. 2011). The beautiful 2D sprite-based prequel had respectable success among casual and tournament-level players alike. Unfortunately, KOF XIII's lack of a solid online mode on consoles hindered the title's competitive lifespan early on... and KOF XIII fell into obscurity before it could really take off. Many traditional fans were hoping for another eventual 2D update to XIII's (and XII's) gorgeous art style, but SNK daringly took the series into the realm of 3D visuals (for a second time) with XIV. As controversial as the new visual direction may be, thanks to the convenience of a 3D graphics engine, SNK was able to deliver an astounding 50 characters at launch (and an eventual 58 playable fighters via post-launch DLC).

joins PS4's growing fighting game library as yet another exclusive for the system. While not nearly as visually vibrant as Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR- or nearly as popular as Street Fighter V, King of Fighters XIV caters to a passionate niche community and delivers the goods that veteran 2D fighting game fans would expect. KOF XIV
follows a familiar formula of many past SNK and 2D fighting game releases. A huge roster at launch, an impressive variety of colorful stages, more than enough "standard" modes, and some cool throwbacks & cameos for the old school fans. For what it's worth, any "fighting game fan" out there who might've recently complained about "particular" fighting games not having enough content at launch, charging for extra characters, or not keeping their promises better buy KOF XIV. (You better buy it and love every detail SNK packed in.)

I love large character rosters in fighting games. In some ways, 50 characters from the start is almost too much to take in at once. Not to mention, players don't have to unlock any of the characters. (On that note, I think an unlocking system would've worked well for KOF XIV... but, of course, the inclusion of an unlocking system arguably wouldn't be "convenient" for the tournament community.) Anyhow, solidly learning one character's combo potential and ever-so-subtle playstyle strengths can take some time, not to mention getting even one full team of three "competitive-ready". Of course, if you're a casual player and just mash around with buttons to learn a new character... this won't bother you, and you'll just love trying out all 50 fighters. To everyone else, your work is surely cut out for you! 


31 returning veterans... 19 brand new characters... a total of 50!


One thing SNK did absolutely right with King of Fighters XIV, is that KOF XIV stays true to the series 2D gameplay roots very closely (something that SNK promised early on in the game's development). KOF XIV keeps a similar pace to its sprite-based prequels, and even specific character combos look and feel exactly as they do in previous games. For "tradition-demanding" 2D fans, this is a very good thing. Some of KOF XIV's mechanics include:
A new MAX mode enabling limited access to EX moves (costing 1 meter), an auto-combo system called "Rush Mode" enabling easy combos using only the light punch button (naturally a beginner-friendly mechanic) and, finally, hard-hitting C+D thrust attacks (causing opponents to be knocked against the wall and become vulnerable to follow-up attacks and combos).

After experimenting with my old favorite characters in the lab, I came to the conclusion early on that KOF XIV's c
ombo system is FUN... Quite fun. Even as an SNK / NeoGeo fan since the very beginning, I never found myself particularly "in love" with previous iterations of KOF's combo or gauge systems... but XIV streamlines everything. The new MAX mode keeps the action frantic (as players can go ham unleashing powerful EX moves for a limited time), and intuitively opens the door to some easy setups for flashy and damaging combos. The returning MAX Cancel system is also a fun novelty. Deciding the best possible moment to cancel supers (into more powerful supers) is a satisfyingly nasty way to punish opponents if you have the extra meter to burn. The only potential "flaw" in KOF14's combo system (something that may bother certain players) is that certain combos require VERY FAST inputs (keeping in tradition with the series history, of course). In short, sometimes you really need to desperately "crank out" those multiple quarter-circle motions to connect some of the more advanced combos... which could potentially lead to nasty hand cramps (or pre-arthritis). (I exaggerate of course, but don't say I didn't warn you!)

I've always enjoyed KOF's "multiple jumps" system ever-so-slightly more than Street Fighter's jump system. Small Jump, Medium Jump and Large jump return in KOF XIV, in addition to a few special jumps while running. As always, these can be used to set up dynamic air attacks and keeps the "aged" 2D gameplay more dynamic. Auto-combos / Rush Mode (now a staple in 2D anime fighters these days) is actually implemented pretty well in KOF XIV. Where KOF XIV's auto-combos differ from some other 2D games is that the "normals" within each character's Rush combo are 100% unique moves, which don't even appear in their default moveset (meaning you can't even perform said combo manually... it's auto-exclusive)! It's interesting that SNK put unique effort into this mechanic, and it pays off visually. A part of me still doesn't like to accept these mash-friendly "1-button" auto combos (complete with super move finish) as the new norm, but I understand making a fighting game accessible to beginners is an important aspect these days.

As you might've noticed, KOF XIV's super moves and Climax supers bring "epic camera angles" to the series for the first time ever. While not nearly as polished or as fleshed out as SFV's or GGXrd's, the dynamic camera angles add some nice "pop" to many classic KOF super moves and help distinguish each character's in-game persona, for the most part. (Some are better than others.)

If you noticed that KOF XIV takes a few cues from the Street Fighter IV formula, you're right. In fact, Yasuyuki Oda (SFIV battle designer, Super SFIV game designer, SFIV: Arcade Edition director, and Garou: MOTW battle designer) was the director of KOF14. Before joining Dimps to work on Street Fighter 4, Oda was employed by SNK from 1993-2000. 

KOF 14's DLC characters are "5 Star" choices... see their TFG Ratings!


Story Mode is.... slightly odd. The intro features well-produced cinematics starring the enigmatic organizer of the KOF XIV tournament, the ultra-buff "Triple H look-alike" known as Antonov. The "odd" part is the way in which character interactions are implemented. Seeing specific character interactions solely depends on your team's layout. While this keeps things unpredictable (sort of a good thing?)... it doesn't present players with any kind of clear path during a Story Mode play-through, leaving it to "chance" that characters encounter and exchange dialogue. For better or worse, players potentially have to play the 9-round Story Mode repeatedly with the SAME characters to view all of the potential interactions. (Of course, they could just watch a YouTube video or two which covers them all, but YouTubing something should not have any relevance in a game review). Of course, KOF just wouldn't be KOF without a nonsensical, ridiculously overpowered blob of a boss waiting for you at the end of Story Mode. (You can read my character review of Verse to see how I really feel about him.) Thankfully, completing Story Mode with a specific team earns you an exclusive ending for that team. Endings have pretty cool artwork with text (sometimes entertaining, sometimes not so much), and some feature great SNK cameos.

Some of KOF XIV's other modes include: Tutorial, Training, Survival, Time Attack, and Online. Online features the typical Ranked and Free Match, but also offers Online Training and a unique 6-player Online VS "Party Battle".
Tutorial is a nice addition for the series and gets the job done. It is narrated by Antanov, as he runs you through all fundamentals, attack options and gameplay systems. Mission features 5 combo trials for every character in the game (10 would've been nicer). The combo trials serve their purpose in helping you learn a character, but I noticed a few of the trials actually seem rather bone-headed (as there are oftentimes "more practical" combo options to obtain similar damage)... I think they rushed this mode a bit. Also, some command trials confusingly list the "wrong" directional input, as they need to be done backwards in some instances. (An experienced player will figure these out eventually, but I could imagine some players getting frustrated). Additionally, certain MAX super cancels within trials want you to "wait longer" than others to complete the combo, and this important detail isn't specified anywhere... so basically, it's trial & error until you get it right. (The Demo Play option will help if you get stuck on these). My final complaint about Trials may seem petty... but there's NO PRIZE or TROPHY for completing ALL TRIALS for ALL 50 characters??? Lame. 

As far as Online Mode, I'll start with the good news first... the netcode is a vast improvement over XIII's and I've had some "smooth as glass" online matches. Unfortunately, only a few months after release, I can already hear the distant chirping of crickets in online mode. Finding a match takes longer than it should (at least during the late hours that I usually play), and the design of the battle lobbies leave something to be desired. Lobbies aren't only sleepy and generic-looking, but perhaps slightly overly-ambitious. 12-player battle lobbies broken up into 3 different match types? Three separate categories of Single VS, Team VS, and Party VS? Definite props to SNK for the effort... but I haven't seen even one KOF14 battle lobby filled up even halfway. I don't blame KOF's popularity in general for this, but perhaps the unappealing design of XIV's online mode itself. It just doesn't "look" fun... and the overwhelming amount of options makes things feel a bit crowded and possibly too overly-complicated for players to invest in. At least inviting and playing a friend in private is a smooth experience, and that might be all you need to enjoy KOF XIV online.

One sorely missing mode in KOF XIV is Color Edit Mode.
Everyone loves Color Edit Mode. KOF XIV characters currently only have 4 colors, and these lonely 4 color options are particularly plain and some would say a little boring. Given the fact that KOF XIV has 3D graphics, a Color Edit Mode would've fit perfectly! Fingers crossed for the addition of the mode via DLC... but perhaps they'd rather sell new colors as DLC down the road, following the example of Capcom and Arc System Works? If you ask me, I'd rather SNK takes the Bandai Namco approach, with Color Edit coming standard in past TEKKEN and Soul Calibur installments for the last 10 years. XIV's other various modes and options aren't bad, such as Gallery where you can unlock and view tons of classic KOF artwork (just in case your internet's out and you can't log on to TFG).


Definitely KOF's best 3D visuals to date.


Obviously, one of the main things KOF XIV has going for it, over its most recent competition in SFV and Xrd -REVELATOR-, is its massive character roster. If you want my opinion of KOF XIV's newcomers, you can of course read each individual character overview via their TFG profiles. In general, I'll say that the newcomers are a mixed bag... as expected. Some newcomers seem to be "trying too hard" to fit into the KOF world, while others seem like they're not quite trying hard enough... (*cough* some are kinda on the boring side if you ask me. *cough*). Furthermore, characters like Sylvie, Shun'ei & Meitenkun seem a bit too anime (or 'weebish' as some would say) for the series, but most new designs might surprise you if you give them a chance, for better or worse. My favorite newcomers, you ask? Kukri, Luong, Bandeiras, Antonov, and that crazy Xanadu... why not.

SNK made pretty good choices on the returning veteran. When some companies reboot classic franchises, some returning characters arguably go through too many changes (either in their movesets or visually) which tarnishes their classic vibe and overall appeal. Thankfully, KOF's veterans retain practically ALL of their best moves from past iterations! Like I always say, good characters don't need to change much. SNK amazed me with how well their classic 2D animations translated into the 3D engine. And thankfully, none of them have that wonky "Maximum Impact effect," if you know what I mean. 

In my opinion, SNK's latest venture into 3D also helped the KOF series shake off some of the "stiffness" that plagued some earlier titles. Compare for  yourself if you must... but KOF XIV's character models actually animate and move around more smoothly than in many past 2D installments.
Even as a lover of 2D sprites, I think there would be far and few between who would prefer 94'-2003' style graphics over KOF XIV's in this day and age. Honestly, the vast majority of moves look just as good, if not better than their BEST sprite-based counterparts (and that's no easy task). Most characters have 2 variations of their super moves: a classic version, and a powered-up (MAX version) with epic camera angles. So even the folks wearing their trusty "nostalgia glasses" can't even complain! And if you're keeping count, SNK "one-upped" Capcom's SFV by including more than one "cinematic" super move for each character!


Outta nowhere! Nice camera angle on the RKO..... AKO? 


To close out this review, let's talk about KOF14's overall graphics.... To start on the positives... projectiles, flames, smoke, and other special move effects look EXCELLENT! Among the best of the series! Character models look proportionally correct for KOF's trademark style and are put together nicely. The musculature anatomy of bare-chested fighters looks smooth around the edges and spot on. Females are properly curvy in the right areas and have appropriately soft facial features (no Mortal Kombat-style man-face problems). The variety of clothing textures are also impressive when you look close and clothing animations aren't half bad. The hair of KOF XIV characters actually looks a bit better than SFV characters' hair in still shots, but in motion, KOF XIV hair appears stiffer and has less-impressive animations. As glitchy as SFV's hair is at times, SFV clothing and hair animation has KOF XIV's number... but at least KOF XIV hair looks less like plastic, clay, and/or bananas.

Overall, KOF XIV character models look good in battle, but many of them appear less-flattering "up close" on the Victory screen (and in Story Mode dialogue cutscenes). Using 2D artworks for the Victory screen would've been more ideal (that is, if they made victory art for this game). Alas, XIV's "clean" skin textures at least remind me of many classic artworks. On that note, you can notice in the KOF XIV character portraits that every member of XIV's cast looks like they're posing for the cover of (insert feminine beauty magazine here)... even the men, of course. Even "rough and tough" badasses like Clark, Ryo, Maxima, and Chang have perfectly refined, exfoliated, soft-to-the-touch faces (obviously caked with makeup to cover their imperfections, from you know... fighting). Their faces are so baby-ass smooth, they could even compete in a pageant with male characters from the DOA series! (Cheap shot taken).

SNK offered up a solid variety of stages, some with entertaining background characters, others a bit more quiet and sleepy... but all of them are stylish in their own way, and as high quality as I'd expect from a KOF title. The 3D backgrounds appear mostly sharp and smooth, but some characters, with certain color combinations, have off-the-charts BAD aliasing (pick Terry's black costume and you'll see what I mean). At the end of the day, KOF XIV is competitive with SFV's graphics quality on PS4... but SFV still gets the edge due to better lighting effects, character model quality, and overall animation quality. Also, it's official: KOF characters never ever ever age... unless they age backwards. Kyo Kusanagi actually looks a few years younger than his KOF '94 appearance. Just wow. Yeah, the faces could be better for sure.

Page Updated: June 19th, 2024
Developer(s) SNK Playmore
Designer(s): Yasuyuki Oda              Director
Artwork By: Eisuke Ogura               Character Designer
Nobuyuki Kuroki
         Art Director
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Arcade, PC
Release Date(s): Aug. 23rd, 2016             PS4
Aug. 25th, 2016            PS4
Aug. 26th, 2016            PS4
June 15th, 2017
June 29th, 2017 
Jan. 7th, 2021                Ultimate Edition
Jan. 20th, 2021             Ultimate Edition
Characters Kyo, Iori, Terry, Athena, Leona, Andy, Ryo, Angel, King, Billy Kane, Clark, Ralf, Kula, K', Benimaru, Robert Garcia, Maxima, Tung Fu Rue, Choi, Chin, Chang, Kim Kaphwan, Vice, Geese, Joe Higashi, Mai Shiranui, Goro Daimon, Mature, Yuri, Ramon, Sie Kensou, Nakoruru, King of Dinosaurs, Sylvie, Luong, Nelson, Mui Mui, Kukri, Bandeiras Hattori, Hein, Gang-Il, Xanadu, Meitenkun, Shun'ei, Alice, Love Heart, Mian, Zarina, Antonov, Verse, Whip (DLC), Yamazaki (DLC), Vanessa (DLC), Rock Howard (DLC), Oswald (DLC), Heidern (DLC), Najd (DLC), Blue Mary (DLC)

Featured Video:

Related Games: The King of Fighters XV, SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, Samurai Shodown (2019), Fatal Fury: City of the Wolves, KOF XIII, KOF XII, KOF XI, KOF '94, KOF '94: Re-bout, KOF '95, KOF '96, KOF '97, KOF '98, KOF '98 Ultimate Match, KOF '99, KOF 2000, KOF 2001, KOF 2002, KOF 2002: UM, KOF 2003, KOF: Maximum Impact, KOF: Maximum Impact MANIAX, KOF: Maximum Impact 2, KOF: MI Regulation A, KOF: Neowave, KOF EX Neo Blood, KOF EX2 Howling Blood, KOF R1, KOF R2, KOF Collection: Orochi Saga, Xuan Dou Zhi Wang, Under Night In-Birth EXE:Late[st], BlazBlue: Central Fiction, Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR-, GGXrd REV2, Street Fighter V, TEKKEN 7

Gameplay Engine  8.5 / 10
Story / Theme  8.0 / 10
Overall Graphics  7.5 / 10
Animation  8.5 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  7.0 / 10
Innovation  7.0 / 10
Art Direction  7.5 / 10
Customization  5.5 / 10
Options / Extras  7.0 / 10
Intro / Presentation  7.0 / 10
Replayability / Fun  7.5 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  8.5 / 10
Characters  8.5 / 10


 8.3 / 10

 Review based on PS4 version  


Final Words: Congrats to SNK for putting out a "complete" King of Fighters sequel on launch day, featuring 100% new content in every aspect. We've missed you, SNK. Did King of Fighters XIV have a smoother and more honest launch than Street Fighter V? Absolutely. Worth mentioning, Capcom's enthusiastic DLC support for SFV has evolved and improved SFV tremendously since its rocky launch, and thankfully, SNK has matched Capcom's strategy (for one) by supporting KOF XIV with great new content into 2017! Some would even say SNK's DLC for KOF XIV is outdoing Capcom's in SFV.

On that note, SNK's choices for DLC fighters is something out of a NeoGeo fan's dream. Does SNK read TFG reviews or something?!? Yamazaki, Vanessa, and Rock Howard would've been my top 3 personal picks as DLC characters! Anyone who reads TFG reviews would know this. SNK makes dreams come true. *Applause* The new DLC stages based on classic locations are cool too, and they're free. KOF XIV is already more awesome than I was expecting, but I'd love to see them continue their support for the game even further (because they're doing superb work)! Support SNK, guys.

Like everyone else, I had some healthy skepticism of KOF XIV after watching the first few, cringe-worthy trailers... but the final build of the game really shaped up nicely. SNK successfully rebooted the classic KOF formula in 3D, arguably for the first time ever. (Some would argue the Maximum Impact series was a success, but many would disagree... so I'll just leave that one alone). That said, KOF14 is actually the first "true" 2.5D King of Fighters game. When all is said and done, KOF XIV is probably the most accessible and easy-to-play King of Fighters game to date! 

Every fighting game of this generation seems to get an "automatic bad rap" from nitpicky fighting game community members, particularly in a specific category or two. The "vice" that triggered KOF XIV critics early on was its less-than-spectacular 3D graphics engine. Some fans even cried "PS2-era character models"... but a quick comparison with any Maximum Impact title will bring those trolls back to reality. If you've followed the series' official art style over the years, you'll remember a lot of "clean" textures in the artwork, along with the trademark pretty faces and dynamic poses. All of these elements are actually present in KOF XIV's overall graphics style, which shows off particularly "clean-looking" 3D models. 

Yes, old school KOF 2D sprites are enjoyable still to this day. I think 98% of KOF players would've been just peachy with SNK bringing back "KOF XIII style" sprites at least one more time for a new title. They were growing the roster nicely in XIII and could've added plenty more fan favorites in that epic art style. I for one was dying to see Yamazaki, Lin, Rock & Vanessa in that style.  Alas, SNK decided 3D was the best option, and maybe it was the better choice to stay competitive in the over-saturated genre. Hand drawn 2D sprites take an unfathomable amount of work and especially time to perfect, so going 3D is a smart move in this era.

I'm not sure anyone enjoys 2D sprites more than me, as collecting, posting, and organizing 2D character sprites for the last 15+ years on this very website is something that I'm proud of. (And if you've been visiting this website that long, you must love 2D sprites too.) But even being such a lover of 2D sprites... does that mean that I can't enjoy 3D graphics (not to mention 3D graphics which are closely based on classic 2D sprites)? Hell no.
We all love the 2D sprites... but releasing a third sprite-based sequel off of KOF XIII might've come off as monotonous. I commend SNK for trying their hand again at 2.5D/3D once again, and they did a great job considering how quickly the game was released and how many characters they packed into the title. Also, random additional props to SNK for releasing a KOF XIV demo on PS4. It actually brought back some ancient memories of downloading the KOF '94 (or KOF '95?) demo on PS1 way back in the day.

Of course, people can still complain about KOF XIV's 3D graphics if they so desire and say the game "looks like shit" (which it doesn't)... but let's not forget the original KOF series ('94-2003), in addition to some spin-offs, kept the same "dated" graphics style & sprites for well over a decade. Did people still love KOF and play it for years regardless? Yes. So... isn't it a bit silly to be so concerned with graphics when it comes to the KOF series?  Yes. It sure is. Also, people should keep in mind not every 2.5D fighting game of this generation is going to look as groundbreaking as GGXrd -SIGN-. And let's not forget GGXrd originally had 17 characters at launch as opposed to KOF14's 50! It's all about perspective.

Can we be done talking about graphics now... I don't usually spend that much time in a single category, but I felt it was necessary address KOF XIV's most prominent negative stigma. I actually wanted to talk more about KOF XIV's balance update, but I don't have a solid opinion as of yet. As a K' main, I was definitely disappointed to see him nerfed so bad... but I'm not one to complain about nerfs and buffs. Once I play a bit more online, I'll update this paragraph with my opinion of the game's overall balance. Stay tuned. ;)

If KOF XIV is any indication of SNK's "rebirth" in the fighting game realm, I'm definitely excited. Their first 3D effort in nearly 10 years might not be perfect, but it's a hell of a step in the right direction! If SNK doesn't deliver some DLC characters to KOF XIV, then I'm already looking forward to KOF XV... not to mention a Samurai Shodown reboot and maybe even a proper Fatal Fury / Garou reboot. In closing, there's a lot to love about KOF XIV... and if you're a fan of tried-and-true 2D fighters, you'd be dumb not to support SNK and this game. On that note, congrats (again) to SNK for selling over 100,000 copies of KOF XIV!

~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen

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